I’ve been writing these Travelogues once or twice a month since 2011, and a request from a reader for information about a particularly famous watershape revealed a significant gap in our information base: To my astonishment, I recognized I’d never written about the Fountains of Bellagio, which is a bit embarrassing when you consider it’s one of my all-time favorites.
I saw it for the first time while attending the Aqua Show more than a decade ago. I was staying down the street at the Luxor (accommodations, I must say, not quite up to the Bellagio’s standard); after returning from an excessively fine dinner with some Genesis 3 friends, I decided a long walk would do me good.
I reached the Bellagio at about 10 pm without too many preconceptions: I’d heard about the place, of course, and had seen a couple photos, but I wasn’t prepared for what I found.
I don’t know how long I stood at the railing, moving from spot to spot to take in the scene from as many angles as I could, but I know it must have been at least an hour. The whole time, I kept thinking, “This is why I love what I do.” The display was simply sublime, an experience that still makes me feel good about how much energy I’ve put into the advancement of watershaping as an art form.
I’ve been back at that same railing many more times through the years, loving every minute of it. What particularly impresses me now is watching the sheer joy in the faces of so many of the people alongside me: There are lots of cool watershapes in the world, but very few of them are transcendent enough to become communal celebrations the way this fountain does.
The Fountains of Bellagio are, of course, the work of the designers and builders at WET Design (Sun Valley, Calif.), and I’ve always considered this project to be among the greatest expressions of the watershaping arts in the history of the planet. For me, in fact, it’s the first among the Seven Wonders of the Modern World (no matter what the other six might be). Other projects have come along to rival them, but these fountains deserve all the respect that comes with real trailblazing.
There’s a lot to like about the original, including the excellent choreography, the thoughtful musical selections and the brilliant lighting program. My personal favorite detail, however, goes unseen and largely unheralded: It’s the fact that the water comes from a well that had been used to irrigate a golf course abandoned when the Bellagio was built. Even with the jetting water and all that splashing in the middle of a desert, the fountains consume less water than the turf always did.
I do, however, have a quick, sad story to tell. My wife is a schoolteacher, and getting her to travel with me to trade show has been a rare treat. I persuaded her to come with me to Las Vegas some years ago because I knew that I was to be named Pig #8 or #9 by Genesis 3 and I wanted her to witness the ceremony. Afterwards, I took her to the Bellagio to see the fountain: It was a cold, blustery night, and when we finally reached the railing, we saw the basin covered in whitecaps and learned that the water show had been cancelled for the night.
I don’t know if I’ll have the chance to try again at sharing the Fountains of Bellagio with her, but for the rest of you, here’s my edict: It’s a trip worth making, an experience well worth sharing and a special event that makes going to Las Vegas a pleasure, every time.
For a unique behind-the-scenes perspective and some history, click here. To see one of the best possible combinations of music and fountain choreography, click here – and please stick with it to witness the aquatically pyrotechnic crescendo!